Booklist Reviews 2010 September #2
In an unnamed Third World city, Rat, Raphael, and Gardo live with thousands of other kids like them in a garbage dump, where they dig through the detritus looking for anything that could be profitable. When an important person loses something valuable in the refuse, the three boys embark on an engrossing, sobering mystery characterized by stealing, lying, and police brutality as well as generosity, trust, and ingenuity. Multiple characters describe the adventure, and although the switch between narrators may initially seem disorienting (a priest, housemother, and tombstone maker also provide their integral perspectives), the story flows more smoothly as it progresses, bolstered by the young characters' well-articulated, authentic thoughts, feelings, and voices. Throughout, the boys' significant sense of devotion and morality leads them from lives of desperation to miraculous possibilities. The culminating scenes contribute important elements of Day of the Dead celebrations and Robin Hood themes, further increasing the novel's usefulness for discussion and study.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2011 Spring
"Trash boys" Raphael Fernandez and his friend Gardo never find anything of value...until one day they do. A leather bag containing a wallet, money, map, and key sends the young men off on a life-changing quest. The setting (an unnamed third-world country in the not-too-distant future) and characters are vividly realized, and the story is hugely entertaining. Copyright 2010 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2010 #6
It's Treasure Island meets Slumdog Millionaire in a rousing and hugely entertaining adventure set in an unnamed third-world country in the not-too-distant future. Fourteen-year-old Raphael Fernandez and his friend Gardo are "trash boys" in rubbish-town, picking through "one whole long world of steaming trash," never finding anything of interest or value...until one day they do: a leather bag containing a wallet, money, a map, and a key. The police arrive and off go Raphael, Gardo, and their friend Rat on a quest that will change their lives forever. They travel from their mountains of garbage to the depths of Colva Prison to the Naravo graveyard on the Day of the Dead to an astonishing end of their journey. Buried treasure, a map, a sinister villain...the ingredients are not new, but the setting and characters are so vividly realized, and the story is so engaging, that the book feels completely fresh. Readers will love this outstanding incarnation of a classic genre and will cheer the goodhearted heroes Raphael, Gardo, and Rat on their quest across their squalid city to honor the dead and do right by their people. dean schneider Copyright 2010 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.
PW Reviews 2010 October #1
Fourteen-year-old "dumpsite boy" Raphael has never found anything valuable in the trash mounds he has combed over since age three. At least not until he unearths a leather bag containing a map, wallet, and key. Keeping his discovery secret from the police, who quickly come looking for the bag, Raphael goes in search of the key's locker, with two friends in tow. Soon they are in the middle of a suspenseful mission involving a secret code, a corrupt politician, and a search for six million stolen dollars. The three authentic boys at the heart of this well-constructed debut novel--sweet Raphael, serious Gardo, and spirited Rat--take turns narrating most of their story (though other voices are also heard); in distinct voices, they provide harrowing details about their lives in the dump. This gripping book engages readers both as an adventure and as a social justice story; clues suggest that it's set in a Third World Latin American country. The story wraps a bit neatly, but readers will be satisfied by the cinematic conclusion and the noble decision the heroes make. Ages 12–up. (Oct.)[Page ]. Copyright 2010 PWxyz LLC